Sunday, January 10, 2010

Landon Donovan starts in the EPL

We've all wondered about Landon.. how is it possible that the leading scorer in the history of US Soccer could possibly be a failure in Europe (3 failed ventures in Deutschland)?  We see the other US players including Claudio Reyna, Brian McBride and now even Clint Dempsey excel to the point of being the leading scorer, or elected captain or voted the fan's favorite player (McBride even has Fulham's official sports bar renamed after him).  So if Landon is the leading scorer of all time and is likely to be the greatest US player in history when its all said and done, why don't his skills translate to Europe?  Could it really be that he's just comfortable at dominating in the niche that he's carved out for himself in Concacaf and the MLS?

You could say that he's merely the leading scorer in the still young US soccer history because he's available to play on so many of the international dates due to the non Fifa aligned MLS schedule.  Also, he plays domestically here so he has the advantage of proximity over European stationed players.  Of course, we cannot discount the fact that as captain, he's often given the responsibility of penalty kicks, from which he's scored many of his goals.  But is he the US' best field player?

I understand that he is slight in stature and also that he's only effective when he has space to make use of his speed and open field abilities.  It can be argued that he is in fact a finesse player and did not and would not do so well in the rough and tumble world of German or English soccer.  (I have always wanted to see how he would do in the beautiful flowing style of Spanish soccer.)  I'm not too happy that he signed a 3 year deal with the MLS again - I would like to see him in the prime of his career, excel like McBride did in England or elsewhere.

Having said all of that, it is unquestionable that he is our most dangerous player on the field.  Our attack essentially hinges on Landon and while I don't see him necessarily as our best goal scorer, he is best at setting up goals.  He's our playmaker.  Maybe not in the way a Zidane is, but Landon is phenomenal at forcing defenses onto its heels, making them uncomfortable, and creating scoring opportunities for teammates.

So back to the question of whether or not the US' best player in history is good enough to play in the world's most famous league?  Landon was immediately given the chance to prove himself last weekend when he was handed the start for Everton at RM against big four club Arsenal.  The results were ... encouraging.

Landon was very effective in Everton's attack, torturing Arsenal's backup LB Traore all game.  He was also surprisingly given the responsibility of taking set pieces, which is strange especially since there was a chance he wasn't even going to play in this match.  However, his corner yielded Everton's first goal.  After 70 minutes of positive contribution, he was taken out.

It was a promising start to what may be one of his last chances to prove himself to the international world of soccer, to US fans and to himself.

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